The Geography of Glasgow

On a world map the coordinates for Glasgow are approximately 55.8o latitude north and 4.3o longitude west. The city is in the west central lowlands of Scotland and straddles the River Clyde; it is a unitary authority in its own right and has the largest population in Scotland. The city’s population of nearly 580,000 lives in an area of 17459 hectares, giving a population density of around 33 people per hectare making it the most densely populated area of the country.

The River Clyde is the single most significant geographical feature of the city. The river is the third longest in Scotland and the eighth longest in Britain. Beginning in the Lowther Hills of south Lanarkshire it flows for 176km (106 miles), becoming the Firth of Clyde about 10km (6 miles) to the east of Glasgow. As the river flows through the city it is wide and deep enough for a major port to have developed, which subsequently also became famous for ship-building. The river was known to be fordable around the High Street - Saltmarket area in medieval times.

Developing from the conglomeration of farming and fishing crofts along the banks of the River Clyde, at is peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the population of Glasgow City exceeded 1,000,000 people. Geologically Glasgow is quite complex. The surface geology of the city is mainly pebbly silty clay around 10m thick. However, to the north and east in particular there are pockets of sand and gravel as well, all of which were laid down when the ice sheets retreated at the end of the Quaternary period. The dominant bedrock in Glasgow is Carboniferous Limestone, with Carboniferous coal measures, mainly to the north of the city. Being in the Central Lowlands the city sits in a rift valley of Palaeozoic deposits. At Victoria Park fossilised tree stumps from the Carboniferous age were exposed by workmen in 1887. These sandstone casts are now enclosed to preserve them from the weather and can be viewed in the park from April to September. The highest elevation in the city is below 100m around the Stepps area to the north east of the city boundary. In the immediate area of the city centre the height above sea level averages around 20m, whilst along the banks of the River Clyde the average is more like 6m. Although it only has an elevation of about 30m some of the best views across the city can be seen from the Queens Park, to the south of the city centre in Pollokshields.

Some Glaswegians try to claim that Glasgow is drier than any other city in the UK. Sadly this is simply not the case. In fact, when it comes to rainfall Glasgow is a clear winner in terms of being the wettest city in Britain. Whilst other coastal cities in Britain can expect up to 900mm of rain a year, on average, over a twenty year period, Glasgow gets 1400mm annually. This rainfall is also spread over more days than for any other city in the country - at 180 days a year. This high level of rainfall is due to Glasgow’s proximity to the west coast of Scotland and the fact that most of the British Isles weather, and therefore Scotland’s, arrives on the prevailing winds from the North Atlantic. Of significance to Glasgow in this matter is that, given its northerly latitude, it does not receive any protection form the Irish landmass in terms of rainfall. However, the North Atlantic Ocean does have a beneficial effect on the weather in Glasgow, as the North Atlantic Drift maintains its blanket effect all year round helping to keep the temperature well above that which could be expected without its warming effects. Average January temperatures of 4oC and July ones as high as 20oC are not uncommon and are considerably higher than many other parts of the British Isles and Scotland. However, in the winter Glasgow is susceptible to extremely cold and snowy weather blowing down from the arctic region to the north-west.

At an average price of £141,000 houses in Glasgow are slightly below the Scottish national average which is around £150,000. As with most cities in the UK, the prevailing wind arrives from the west. Therefore, any pollution generated by the city is blown from west to east. Subsequently in most UK cities the ‘cleanest’ air is to be found in the western suburbs, whereas generally the industrial heartlands in UK cities will be to the east and north of the city. That said the single most expensive housing in Glasgow is in the suburb of Carmunnock, in the south east. However, this is a relatively new phenomenon and has more to do with the easy access to the motorway system and proximity - and relative ease of travel for business commuters - west to Edinburgh and south into England. The area to the west of the city is, however, traditionally the most expensive overall. This is the one area where you can’t buy a house for under £100,000 and the average for the area is £170,000, compared to £125,000 for the south east area.